Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie
Book One of the Burning Glass series
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.
Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.
But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.
As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.
BURNING GLASS is debut author Kathryn Purdie’s stunning tale of dangerous magic, heart-rending romance, and the hard-won courage it takes to let go.
What I Liked:
I'm going to be honest - the very beginning of this book didn't go well for me. I pushed past it, and made it to about 40%, and I realized that I was rapidly losing interest (mostly due to the romance at that very point). However, I am so happy that I was adequately encouraged, because the book was pretty good. Unfortunately, this is going to be one of those cases where I was so happy with the ending... but the more I thought about it, the less I liked the book. Still, three stars means I was okay with the book overall, I liked it overall.
Eight months ago, Sonya was finally captured and taken to the convent were Auraseers - like empaths - are trained to serve the emperor. Auraseers are supposed to be trained from a young age, but Sonya's been going from caravan to caravan since she was little. Fast forward to present day - Sonya's power is out of control. She feels everyone's emotions too strongly, and a terrible mistake leads to her leaving the convent and becoming the Sovereign Auraseer, protector of the emperor. In the palace, she'll discover that she must master her power, because she's realizing that she can't tell the difference between what she is feeling and what others are feeling. Sonya will learn the truth about what the emperor's younger brother is up to, and she'll have to decide who to betray.
First thing I will say: the official synopsis makes it seem like everything hinges upon Sonya "choosing" the emperor or his brother (they're a year apart). This would make you think that there is a love triangle. The answer to that: yes and no. Technically no, because Sonya only feels a certain type of way to one of the brothers. The other one is very manipulative... I'll discuss more on that later. If you're bothered by love triangles (like me), you'll reach a certain point in the book (like, 40%, as I mentioned), and this book will make you irritated. But I will also say that there is no real love triangle in this book.
Anyway. I got off to a rough start, with this book. I immediately did NOT like Sonya; I kept thinking, gosh she's so dumb, how could she let this and that happen?! But when she is taken to the palace, I found that I could understand her better, and place myself in her shoes, and I ended up liking her in no time. Which surprised even me because I reacted very strongly to her (in a negative way) in the very beginning.
From the start, I adored quiet, calm Anton. He is the younger brother, the crown prince. He's calm and cool and collected and determined to keep Sonya out of his business and life. I feel like as soon as you even try to do this, with anything, the "thing" comes ricocheting back. Sonya and Anton are like magnets. I found Anton to be three three-dimensional, very complex, and definitely so much more than a love interest. He has plans and dreams that are bigger than the emperor, than the empire, than what he feels for Sonya.
Sonya's duty in the palace is to detect malice and bad intentions and general danger that is directed at the emperor. And it's difficult for Sonya, because she's never been exposed to be so many people and so many emotions, and she has a difficult time handling the overload, as well as she has a difficult time discerning what she is actually feeling (or is it someone else's feelings).
That last line - just keep that in mind, as I talk about the romance. I said there was no love triangle. Kind of. There isn't, because when Sonya is clear-headed, there is only one person she thinks of (*swoons over Anton*). But there is someone that wants to manipulate and possess and own her for the sake of having her power to himself (and nothing really feelings-based). So... the thing is, she never feels anything real towards the "other guy", even though it seems like HE is the primary love interest in the book. At 40%, I was so sick of the deceit. Sonya knew something was wrong with the affection, but she couldn't say no.
I hope that makes sense? In terms of what was real and what wasn't, Sonya knows who she cares about - when her power isn't scrambled by This Other Guy's dominating emotions of lust. And this aspect disappears around 60% (ish?), and it's pretty much gone for good. I can't see the potential love triangle aspect resurfacing at any point in the trilogy, which is good. Because I really like Anton and Sonya together. The thing is, as much as I hated how much Sonya was manipulated by The Other Guy's emotions, I LOVED how strong her feelings towards Anton were, in order to kind of break free of The Other Guy's control. If that makes sense. Like, her feelings for Anton were what grounded her, and made her see things clearly.
Enough about that romance! I was satisfied with Anton and Sonya together. I was satisfied with how the story moved, though the book was long. And the ending was very VERY satisfactory! Wave goodbye to the love triangle, as well as to the insane plots of the emperor. I'm curious to see how this story will be turned into a trilogy, because this book ended so well! A perfect balance of open-ended and resolved story. I'm almost scared of two more books!
What I Did Not Like:
I think, initially, upon finishing this book, I was so relieved that the "love triangle" was over with (at least as far as I can tell), that I could have given this book all the stars. The more I think about it though, the more I remember how close I came to chucking my poor Kindle across the room, when reaching the 40% mark. That particular set of scenes made me want to rip out my hair. Or this book!
OBVIOUSLY this book isn't getting four stars because of the implication of a love triangle. And while it isn't a "true" love triangle - Sonya only loves one person - things get physical with the other person, and FIRST, before she ever touches Anton. This bothers me on some level, even though I know she was being manipulated. Even she knew she was being manipulated, but she couldn't break free. So I'm not completely throwing this book out, because in the end, she's "free", and it's pretty much guaranteed that the "other guy" will never make an appearance in terms of romance.
Still, as someone who HATES love triangles or even the insinuation of them, I feel the need to mention that it will seem like there is one. If you get to ~40% and you feel like throwing the book, I promise it gets MUCH better (in terms of the romance) just a little after that point. I'm being very explicit in my words because I want others who hate love triangles (like me!) to understand why I'm rating this book so "high" (despite me saying that was/wasn't a love triangle). I did drop two stars though, because of the triangle. As soon as Sonya and The Other Guy kissed, I knew this book wasn't getting more than three stars. No matter how the romance ended up (quite well, actually!).
Something not romance-related - I would have liked to see Sonya's power in action, in terms of warning and actually saving Valko (the emperor) from a threat. She never actually picks up anything dangerous that is a threat to Valko's life, which is kind of sad, given how much everyone is supposedly trying to kill this guy.
Furthermore, on a technical note... I have no idea what the title means, what it represents, what it signifies. That I recall, the phrase or words never appeared, and there was no glass metaphor, or burning motif? I'm not sure I understand; this is a small thing, but it's really bothering me!
Would I Recommend It:
I would say to skip or hold off, if you're someone who hates love triangles. I didn't hate this book and I didn't rage at the presence of a potential love triangle (I KNEW there was something not right), but I can't see myself recommending this book to those who hate love triangles (like me). Had I known a little more about this book in terms of the romance/non-romance, I might have skipped it before I downloaded it from Edelweiss. However, the book was good! The Anton/Sonya romance is good (and very solid, especially at the end of the book). I just wouldn't have put myself through that 40% point. Overall the book was pretty good though. The fantasy is well-crafted but nothing entirely new, but I will definitely say that it's an intriguing world of fantasy and politics. I'd like to see more politics and different scenery/settings in the future.
3.5 stars. It was a bit difficult for me to decide if I wanted to round down or up - usually if I'm undecided, I round down - and so I'm going with rounding down.
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